Hinterland - Friday, 5 January, 2018

Happy New Year to one and all – and a warm welcome to the first Hinterland of 2018.
This week, we look at the myth of a concrete Britain, discuss the silent unemployed and examine adult social care and its workforce – all while considering the future of farming, empty homes and the scourge of glitter.
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The illusion of a concrete Britain

Next time you worry about greenbelt erosion read this article by Mark Easton of the BBC – its spot on. It tells us:

The British people, it appears, have the mistaken belief that much of the UK has been concreted over. Could it be that the psychological impact of city living means people have a distorted idea of what our own country looks like?

This misunderstanding is suggested by new survey data produced by Ipsos Mori. Asked how much of the UK’s land area is densely built on, the average estimate was 47%. The far more accurate figure – based on satellite images – as highlighted in my blog last November, is 0.1%.

The average Briton thinks 356 times more of our nation’s land is concrete jungle than is the reality.

This isn’t just a minor misconception. The error helps to distort our mental picture of the UK and shift the politics of land use.

If the UK is viewed as a large football pitch, the people in the survey reckoned that almost all the ground between the goal-line and half-way line is densely developed when, in reality, it would fit into the tiny arc marked for taking a corner.

The 0.1% figure for what is designated “continuous urban fabric” (CUF) was named UK Statistic of the Year by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) last month.

RSS president Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter said “whatever side of the argument you sit on, this statistic gives true insight into the landscape of the United Kingdom”

Farmers should be paid for services which benefit society, report states

I suspect not everyone will be happy with this view – but it does reveal the scope for new and exciting thinking on a whole range of issues if we can only get Brexit as a process out of the way! The article tells us:

Farmers should get paid for a range of benefits and services that society needs, such as healthy soils and clean water, according to a new report.

The Wildlife Trusts has published policy proposals for the future of farming and land management in England – entitled “What Next for Farming?

The organisation believes that farmers should get paid for a range of benefits and services that society needs – but which farmers can’t directly sell as they can with food.

These benefits include healthy soils, clean water, clean air and climate change mitigation, flood risk management, better natural habitats, abundant pollinators and healthy people.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has taken these policy proposals and applied them to the River Aire catchment – in a new report also published this week.

This case-study shows how changing policy in this way and directly contracting farmers could deliver public benefits and services.

It concludes that a move away from subsidy to direct public contracts for identified public goods, if managed well, would be “transformational” and secure environmental, quality of life and economic benefit.

The report states that a new contract – between land managers, the Government, taxpayers and consumers – could secure the future of not just wildlife, but farming communities.

Forgotten unemployed’ missing out on needed benefits

I suspect many of the people referred to in this article will be rural dwellers, where people are often more independent and under-stated. It tells us:

Many of Britain’s poorest people are missing out on benefits to which they are entitled, a report published this week has claimed.

According to the report, “Falling through the cracks,” unemployed or very low earners are missing out on at least £73 per week.

The paper, by the Resolution Foundation, found that around 300,000 of those in need of financial support are not claiming unemployment benefits that they are entitled to – with older people, particularly women aged 55-64, and younger men comprising most of this group.

Currently the value of Jobseekers Allowance or standard Universal Credit for those aged 25 and over is £73.10 per week, but it is thought that many could be missing out on much more if they are also entitled to benefits such as maternity grants, energy discounts or free school meals.

The Resolution Foundation attributes this group of “forgotten unemployed” to policymakers having ignored the growing gap between the number of unemployed people and the amount claiming unemployment benefits that has emerged since the late 1990s – although it notes that in many instances unemployed people have good reason to not claim benefits, such as living with a working partner.

Over 11,000 homes have stood empty for at least 10 years, data shows

Food for thought particularly in terms of the question as to whether council’s are doing enough to tackle the issue. This article tells us:

More than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade despite the housing crisis and rising homelessness, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats.

The data was collected through freedom of information requests to about 275 councils, which showed 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least 10 years.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.”

Government data suggests about 200,000 homes have been empty for six months or more but information on longer-term vacant properties is not routinely published.

The Lib Dem research also showed that just one in 13 councils are making use of empty dwelling management orders (EDMO) – the powers that can be used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these, only six had used one in the past year. In total, councils returned about 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams.

Social care in 2018: time to think about the future workforce

This is a long but worth quoting in full report about the latest thinking and activities around the social care workforce, which is a big issue in rural communities. It tells us:

The government’s forthcoming green paper on care and support for older people, and the parallel workstream on working age adults, is an opportunity for us to recognise the work of 1.45 million adult social care workers across England – and to really think about what the future workforce will look like.

One of Skills for Care’s priorities in 2018 is working with employers and other partners to make a strong submission to the green paper, so we ensure that recruitment and retention issues, and the learning and development needs of the workforce, are integral to the discussion.

The much-anticipated green paper on social care for older people is set to be published by the summer of 2018 – although, having been promised before last year’s general election, the sector had been hoping the paper would appear much sooner.

It was also hoped that the green paper would address needs across the entire adult social care sector. Instead, the paper will be limited to the government’s plans for improving care and support for older people and tackling the challenges presented by an ageing population.

There will be a ‘parallel work stream on working age disabled adults’, but some are concerned this report will focus on getting more disabled people into work.

The government has invited a number of people to advise on the paper, including Paul Burstow, chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence; Sir Andrew Dilnot, the former chair of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support; and Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK. However, no user or care worker representatives have been invited to take part in consultations.

The proposals set out in the paper will build on the additional £2bn the government has provided to meet social care needs, reduce pressures on NHS services and stabilise the social care provider market over the next three years. Once published, the paper will be subject to a full public consultation.

I have been encouraged that we can do this by the emphasis on workforce in the Lords select committee report on the long-term sustainability of the NHS and adult social care (pdf), and the commons communities and local government select committee report into adult social care (pdf). Both these reports recognised that a well-led, skilled, knowledgeable and valued workforce is central to our aspirations for high quality care and support services.

We will continue to grow our registered manager networks as we know that strong and well-supported leaders are key to developing high quality services. It can be a lonely place being a care manager – but these networks offer a place for them to share experiences and ideas: 74% of care managers say they feel more confident in their roles after using resources and suggestions from other managers.

Apprentices are a real success story in adult social care: 99,220 have started in the past year alone.

In 2018 we would like to see increased take-up of the new apprenticeship standards, which set out what an apprentice will be doing and the skills required of them. The standards for adult care workers and lead adult care workers were launched in the last 12 months and have already led to the recruitment of new apprentices. Further higher level standards are being introduced for lead practitioners and leaders in adult care. While they are passing through the government approval process, we will continue to administer the established and most popular higher apprenticeship framework in the economy, care leadership and management.

We are also looking forward to the findings of the health select committee nursing inquiry, which I gave evidence to highlighting the difficulties we face recruiting enough nurses to support people in the care sector with complex needs –and how we might address that. It’s important that we hear the voice of nursing home providers, who employ around 43,000 nurses across England, as making sure they can find nursing staff is central to our aspirations for high quality care and support.

Woman nearly blinded by glitter from Christmas card

A salutary tale to bear in mind for next Christmas. This story tells us:

A woman was nearly blinded by a Christmas card when a piece of glitter worked its way into her eyeball.

The 49-year-old was referred to an eye casualty department by her GP after suffering a painful, red eye, loss of vision and swollen eyelid.

An initial examination by a doctor at the ophthalmology department of Singleton Hospital in Swansea spotted a lesion on the patient’s cornea and suspected it to be caused by a herpes simplex infection, according to a case study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

But when the lesion was examined by the ophthalmic registrar under a powerful microscope, a shiny surface was spotted inside.

The patient then remembered getting glitter in her eye when it rubbed off a Christmas card.


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